Restaurant Review: Jaan Rings in a British Renaissance
The sky was an intimidating theatrical display of contradicting personalities; adrift with fast-moving ominous-looking clouds one moment, and melancholic with light passing showers the next. Here I was, holed up in the comforts of a cosy and snug restaurant Jaan, situated high above the clouds—on the 70th floor of Swissotel The Stamford. Funnily enough, the skies outside may somewhat be a fitting ode to Chef Kirk Westaway’s English grounding.
The starters were a dazzling array of bite-sized British inspired snacks made with the simplest of ingredients. It was all about telling a story: investigating Britain’s cultural diversity, and simultaneously showcasing Chef Kirk’s propensity to touch base with his humble Devon roots, despite the grandiosity that propels Jaan’s million dollar views and equally stunning collection of rare whiskies and wines. There was a fish & chips inspired canapé—crunchy game chip topped with an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil. It’s exceedingly elegant, and nothing quite like the grease-stained pub grub one would expect, but in the spirit of romanticism, I concur. The buckwheat pancake ball holds a bolus of warm Devon Cheddar cheese inside; sourced from a cheesemaker located just a stone’s throw away from Chef Kirk’s Family home in Devon—again, there’s sentimentality that accompanies this ravishing snack. A blistered magic carpet of cooked tapioca transports dollops of cumin yoghurt, hummus, salted lemon and sesame pearls into your mouth. I round that up with a posh savoury macaron of foie gras ballotine, creamed mushroom duxelles and truffle cream. It tasted like mini beef wellington, which typically wouldn’t have worked, but it did.
Immediately, I’m transported to the thick of spring, the tone has been set. Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm and nothing quite exemplifies that more than the next Charlotte potato and truffle bouillon. Charlotte potato juliennes, ground macadamia nuts, chopped chives are drowned out by the frothy heights of a mushroom, seaweed and truffle broth. It’s unapologetically comforting, feeding off the powers of childhood memories to leave imprints on your heart. It is swoon-worthy and I’m smitten.
From here, the menu steers into a more recognisably high-strung territory, as if representing the Chef’s evolving culinary prowess. I slurped down Irish Oysters bathed in bright ponzu foam, graced with an extra allotment of restrained bitter complexities in an amber sprinkle of pomelo. All this to the melodious clink of champagne flutes holding the luminescent Krug 2004 Vintage Release champagne. It’s bone-dry structure and grippy acidity plumping up the allure of the seafaring molluscs. Enraptured by the beauty of the Scottish Langoustine and Violin Courgette course, I spent a good minute trying to capture the ethereal moment. A perfectly cooked Scottish langoustine is offset beautifully by blanched violin courgette and sweet red pepper chutney. It is made a touch peculiar with smatterings of goats cheese curd from Neal Yard’s; its hay-like funk proving to be a revelation in intense flavour matching.
From the kitchen came 3 smooth egg-shaped pods, and in one smooth rehearsed motion, their tops were removed to reveal wisps of aromatic rosemary smoke. Therein, lies Chef Kirk Westaway’s latest improvisation of the signature Eggs in an Egg. 12-day cured egg yolk, with lineage from New Zealand, is nestled on a bed of mushrooms and pickled cevennes onions. Delicate cauliflower puree relieves egg whites of their duty, and the extra topping of Oscietra caviar was a treat. The details were good where they matter and the overall dish was radical—in terms of what every ambitious egg wants to be later in their career.
This egg-play, an ode to the one instagrammable veteran dish that has been on the menu since being helmed by culinary luminary Andre Chiang (of now-defunct two-Michelin-starred Restaurant André), leads us inexorably to the fact that Jaan has been a hotbed for Michelin starred talents. The most obvious being their one star under the leadership of Chef Kirk Westaway in 2016—which involved teamwork, blood, sweat, tears, overworked wrists from polishing stemware, crouching tableside to explain the menu tacitly in overt details, in Mandarin no less to overseas guests. And from where I was seated that day, perhaps clinching two stars is not a far-off possibility at this year’s Michelin Guide.
Meat had its moment on the menu, albeit a very short one with the Iberico Pork. There was nothing conventional about this dish, yet the cumulation of flavours imparted such resounding familiarity on the palate. Seasoned pork loin was accompanied with a cabbage roll stuffed with an ethereal porky mixture composed of a sizeable list of ingredients starting with pork belly, homemade pancetta and chorizo. The dish was finished off with fresh squid, smatterings of cauliflower puree and dollops of fermented Korean black garlic. Cut to the point: it’s non-religious, doesn’t follow a said school for thought; but this apparent confusion (come to think of, it does bear some semblance to the Korean Osam-bulgogi) marries on the palate with such conviction that you might be convinced to think that such an odd union should have been mandated from the start.
I don’t know about my fellow diners, but that obscure detail of crispy deep fried ball perched up high falls from an ‘out-of-this-world’ pedigree. Braised pork shoulder, pickled mushrooms, lard and what not? I’m just covetously eyeing that glorified ball on my neighbour’s plate. Save it for last.
The dessert will transport you straight to chocolate nirvana. The Ivory Caramel was an indulgent ensemble of caramelised white chocolate and chocolate orchestrated dessert. Served in a three-tiered vessel, you’ll be faced with an infinity of possible eating sequences, each as delicious as the last. Whipped to within an inch of its life, the aerated chocolate mousse, with faint tropical nuances, registers as rich, but not heavy. Slide down into those comfy armchairs with a spoonful of fudgy brownie, and make sure to spoon the whole milk foam shebang over it. Of course, you’ll have the silky butterscotch inundated Kopke Colheitas 1965 port to wash that down with.
You would joke with your companion that you’re stuffed to the brim, only to experience a mini existential crisis when the petit fours arrive in an elaborate fanned out drawer. If you only had room for one, the pineapple cheesecake is the one worth saving your last stomach real estate for, mostly given the flavour callisthenics you’ve been engaged in up to this point. A three-walled biscuit houses a thick creamy cheesecake that is leavened by the refreshing tang of pineapple puree. Not into cheesecake? Chef Kirk also condenses his favourite scones and jam into miniature treats. Buttery sable sandwiching clotted cream and raspberry jam—resistance is futile.
My first foray into dining at Jaan was in 2009, and it’s been my pleasure to watch its transformation to its current maturity, with a level of inventiveness. From start to finish, Jaan knows when to hit the gas and when to coast. Maybe it’s the Champagne Krug Blanc de Blancs or 1982 Karuizawa single malt whisky on the table as you await your food, or a plain request for a picture to be taken on your silver anniversary; whatever the occasion, Jaan with its exemplary hospitality, is a vehicle for good times.
2 Stamford Road, Level 70, Equinox Complex, 6837 3322